FOXBORO, Mass. — It took a while, but the Patriots have finally gotten a chance to get acclimated to the cold weather, and they’re hoping it works to their advantage in the playoffs.
Through an unseasonably warm stretch in November and December, the Patriots held a ton of practices in comfortable weather. Last week, as they geared up for the Dolphins, the Patriots practiced inside the Dana-Farber Field House twice when the weather worsened, and their lone outdoor session took place when temperatures were in the 60s.
Things changed dramatically Saturday, though, when temperatures were in the 20s. Then, Wednesday and Thursday, it got extremely cold and windy, causing for the two coldest practices of the season.
“This is like the weirdest winter, if you want to call it that, that it’s this late in the season, and we haven’t gotten any snow and it’s just starting to get cold,” Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. “Just take it as it comes, and deal with it. Now that we’re practicing in the cold, it’s good for us.”
The Patriots were loaded up in thermal clothes and facemasks to keep warm during practice. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was again wearing a sweatshirt over his practice jersey.
At this point, the chances to use the weather to their advantage might be dwindling, but at least the Patriots are getting a chance to get acclimated to the frigid conditions. While the cold (sometimes snowy) weather certainly helped the Patriots beat teams like the Raiders, Titans and Colts during their Super Bowl runs, the Patriots’ greatest competition this time around might come from the Ravens and Steelers, who are used to the northeast.
The weather would definitely come into play against a team like the Texans, but other potential playoff opponents like the Jets, Bengals and Broncos are also used to the dropping temperatures. Of course, the Raiders and Titans are still alive, too.
“It’s New England. It gets cold here,” said Ihedigbo, who grew up in Massachusetts. “You get used to it. I guess it could work to our advantage, but a lot of teams that are in the east are cold-weather teams, as well — Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. So yeah, you’ve got to get used to the elements and be able to play through anything.”
At any rate, the Patriots know this week will be a good learning experience for them, however uncomfortable they might be during practice.
“It works into the way we play, but either way, it comes down to playing in the game and not thinking about the weather too much and thinking into it too much,” said linebacker Dane Fletcher, who is fundamentally opposed to wearing sleeves during games. “You’ve got to think extra hard during practice about what you’re trying to accomplish and what you need to get done. On game day, the drive just takes over. You’ve got to get that in your head in practice, too.”